hi·a·tus | \hī-ˈā-təs \

Definition of hiatus 

1a : a break in or as if in a material object : gap the weedy hiatus between the town and the railroad— Willa Cather the hiatus between the theory and the practice of the party— J. G. Colton

b biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ

2a : an interruption in time or continuity : break especially : a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted after a 5-year hiatus from writing a summer hiatus

b : the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

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Did You Know?

Hiatus comes from "hiare," a Latin verb meaning "to gape" or "to yawn," and first appeared in English in the middle of the 16th century. Originally, the word referred to a gap or opening in something, such as a cave opening in a cliff. In the 18th century, Laurence Sterne used the word humorously in his novel Tristram Shandy, writing of "the hiatus in Phutatorius's breeches." These days, "hiatus" is usually used in a temporal sense to refer to a pause or interruption (as in a song), or a period during which an activity is temporarily suspended (such as a hiatus from teaching).

Examples of hiatus in a Sentence

The band is making an album again after a five-year hiatus. steam was rising from an hiatus in the ground

Recent Examples on the Web

After a yearlong hiatus, genre-blurring rock duo Twenty One Pilots on Wednesday premiered two new songs and announced a new fall tour, with the fourth show happening at the new Milwaukee Bucks arena Oct. 20. Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Twenty One Pilots premiere two songs, announce album and show at new Milwaukee Bucks arena," 11 July 2018 Between the two works came a visit from the superstar pianist Lang Lang, making a somewhat low key return to the soloist’s spotlight after a lengthy hiatus due to a left hand injury. Jeremy Eichler, BostonGlobe.com, "Tanglewood opens with Bernstein’s exuberance, Lang Lang’s return," 8 July 2018 Connecticut had won 10 in a row before the series went on hiatus and, with the win this year, ensured the cup remained in-state. Sean Begin, courant.com, "Governor's Cup: Connecticut All-Stars Defeat Rhode Island, 28-7," 30 June 2018 Locklear is on hiatus with her agency, and a rep for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return Refinery29's request for comment. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "Breaking Down Everything Going On With Heather Locklear," 26 June 2018 Leaders of the pack The IndyCar circuit has been racing on Belle Isle since 2007 (with a hiatus from 2009-11) and some drivers — ahem, Mr. Dixon — are more comfortable than others there. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "Belle Ringers: Looking back on the IndyCar series' time at Belle Isle," 26 May 2018 Lee Mathews, who returned to SFW after a brief hiatus, made the biggest splash with many summery frocks, which ranged from an ethereal white number to a graphic gingham sundress with rope detailing. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "What’s Up Down Under? A Report From Fashion Week in Sydney," 24 May 2018 The band had a great run until about 2000, then went on the first of two separate six-year hiatuses, the last of which ended in 2016. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland.com, "Brett Eldredge bringing 'The Long Way Tour' to Jacobs Pavilion in September," 7 May 2018 The final killing took place after a five-year hiatus, in 1986, when an 18-year-old woman was raped and bludgeoned in Irvine, near Los Angeles, and the Golden State Killer disappeared without a trace. The Washington Post, AL.com, "Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo: Ex-cop lived quiet life as grandfather before arrest," 26 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hiatus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hiatus

1563, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hiatus

Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at yawn

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Dictionary Entries near hiatus



hiatal hernia




hiba arborvitae

Phrases Related to hiatus

go on hiatus

put on hiatus

Statistics for hiatus

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for hiatus

The first known use of hiatus was in 1563

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More Definitions for hiatus



English Language Learners Definition of hiatus

: a period of time when something (such as an activity or program) is stopped


hi·a·tus | \hī-ˈāt-əs \

Medical Definition of hiatus 

: a gap or passage through an anatomical part or organ especially : an opening through which another part or organ passes (such as the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus and vagus nerves pass)

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Comments on hiatus

What made you want to look up hiatus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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